>Week of Loaves: Apple Banana Bread

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In two days it’s December. Already, since last Friday, the “holiday push” has begun. I hope that you sincerely think about what’s important to you this time of year, and that anything that doesn’t make the list doesn’t bother you. 
If you like to show love through food, but time is not always on your side, loaves are great to make ahead and have on hand. They freeze well, travel well, and make great gifts. You can bake small loaves or enormous loaves, and they’re pretty adaptable. 
An innie loaf
This week, I’ll be blogging about a new loaf recipe every day. Please share your favorites with me, too! 
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Tips for Gifting Loaves
To make smaller or larger loaves than a recipe indicates, consult this handy chart to consider various pan’s volumes. Change the baking time as needed, paying attention to how a loaf should look when it’s done. (Many will be done when “a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean”.)
To store loaves for freezing, let them cool completely! This is very important, because if you wrap them up while any heat is left in them, the heat will be trapped and turn to moisture on the inside of the wrapping, making your product soggy. Once cool, wrap the loaf well in several layers of plastic wrap or foil. If you use foil, you might want to consider putting the loaf in a plastic freezer bag, to ensure that no air can get it and give your loaf freezer burn.

To thaw, remove from the freezer and let thaw at room temperature for several hours. If you will be mailing loaves, try to put them in the box straight from the freezer.
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Today’s loaf is a moist apple banana bread which has apples two ways. If you like cooked apples, I recommend cooking up slices in the oven on a baking sheet (350˚, til soft, about 35 minutes) and keeping the cooked slices in the fridge to dice up and add to things * last-minute. I just used 8 slices from my stash (since I had originally sliced each apple into 8) for this recipe, but I’ll give alternate directions below.
Apple Banana Bread
adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook, edited by Barbara Fairchild, p. 493
1 medium apple, cut into 8 slices, cored (peeled if you want) and diced
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
1/4 cup apple butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 cups mashed ripe bananas
Spray a skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the diced apple and cook, stirring frequently, until the apple is soft. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350˚/180˚. Grease two large (9″x5″x3″) metal loaf pans.
In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, ground almonds, and spices, until thouroughly combined.
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the sugar and butter until creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the bowl and beater with a spatula, then stir in the apple butter and vanilla. Beat in the eggs, scraping well after each one. Mix in half the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk, then the remaining portions of each, then scrape again. Stir in the mashed bananas and cooked diced apples. 
Scrape the batter evenly into the two prepared pans. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a wooden skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean. Cook loaves completely in pans on a rack. Remove from pans and eat, or wrap up tightly.
Yummy for breakfast
*Oatmeal, muffins, warm up and smush for rustic applesauce, layering in parfaits.
Recommended accompaniment: French-press coffee, however you take it

>’Tis the Season?

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In less than 48 hours, “Christmas season” begins. This isridiculous. I love Christmas, but this extension of one day’s celebration tocover more than a month wears things out. I like simplicity: a tree, somesilver balls, some colored lights. I’m not even a fan of wrapping paper: it’spaper that’s made specifically to be ripped and thrown away. Aesthetically Ilike just about everything to do with the holidays (except this $150 blow-up Santa in a helicopter – what?!). It’s the excess that annoys me.
Okay, so I’m really not a Scrooge, but Christmas cards go onmy list of “unecessaries”. Who wants a picture of me? Nobody. And I don’t wanta picture of you. And I don’t want you to spend 50 cents or more to send me anycard, photo or no. Unless it has money in it. See, I can be kind to earth andselfish at the same time!
“But I like cards. I want to send you good tidings and joyand peace with my best calligraphy pen. Why are you so rude?”
You’re right. I’m sorry. Maybe there are some cute cards outthere. Maybe there are even cute cards that can be cut into pieces and re-usedfor other things. Let’s see if I can fix my attitude!

 Maybe a cute card with a photo on one side and some nice simple text on the other? Okay!
 
Shutterfly.com
Or maybe, you’re making some foodie gifts for everyone, and you want uniform, easy labels. 
(I’ll be posting some food gift ideas in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out and keep your apron handy.)
Shutterfly.com
Or maybe, you would like some of your purchase to support altruistic efforts, and also you like adorable oversized animals. Perfect!
Shutterfly.com
Full disclosure: Shutterfly is offering 50 holiday cards to bloggers who blog about their products. I did genuinely pick out options that I like, and obviously I have mixed responses to the whole make-the-USPS-feel-useful aspect of the coming season. Just wanted you to know.

>Carrot-Eggplant Casserole

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So the big T-day is just around the corner. Secret: I don’t like turkey, except the pre-sliced deli kind. Don’t judge, lest you be judged. Ha!

Here’s a hearty vegan alternative that would make a great side dish any time. Jenn asked me to make a loaf with fresh ginger, and I’m pretty sure she meant a sweet quickbread loaf, but I immediately thought this carrot-mushroom “loaf” from the Moosewood cookbook would be outstanding with some ginger. Mushrooms and eggplants are alike in that they both are oil-sponges, and you could use either. The original recipe, which has cheddar cheese, is also very tasty. I replaced the eggs with a flax seed binder and took the flavors in a slightly more Pacific direction.

Carrot Eggplant Casserole
adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen, p. 184
Serves 8-10 (makes one 9 x 13 dish)
2 cups onions, minced (about 1 medium onion)
1 T coconut or olive oil
1 to 1 1/2 lbs eggplant, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
1 t salt
1 t minced fresh ginger
1/2 t dried coriander
1 t cumin
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 c grated carrots (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs (hint: grate dry bread on your grater after you grate the carrots)
2 T ground flax seed
4 T warm water
2 T soy sauce
black pepper, fresh ground
Prep all your veggies. Heat the coconut oil in a large saute pan until melted. Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the eggplant, salt, ginger, coriander, cumin, and garlic to the pan. Saute for 10 more minutes. If the bottom of the pan gets very dry and things start to stick, stir in a little water. Be sure to stir the veggies quite often, so the moisture evaporates and the veggies saute instead of steam. 
While the veggies are cooking, mix the flax seed and warm water together with a fork or whisk. Let set for a few minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350˚/180˚.
Mix together in a large bowl the carrots, bread crumbs, flax seed-water mixture, soy sauce, and black pepper. When the veggies are soft and wrinkly, mix them into the carrot stuff. Spread into a greased 9 x 13 pan and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more. Serve hot or warm. 

This casserole keeps very well in the fridge or freezer. I made it tonight and have set aside a portion for our Thanksgiving feast!

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

For Thursday, I’ll be helping at my church’s annual feast. The average attendance is around 250, I’ve been told. I’m also making a few things for our home gathering: bacon-oyster cornbread stuffing, apple sausage stuffing, two bourbon chocolate pecan pies, and some sort of salad. Last year I made a fennel grapefruit salad, which was delicious, except every single person that took it thought it was a raw fish sushi dish (the grapefruit did look like raw fish).

French Bread for the stuffing

And don’t worry Jenn, I’ll still make a sweet ginger loaf soon. 

>a little part of me died today

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The Prince and I have the same birthday, except he is older, which means we would have been the perfect couple. Today, I am in mourning. Except not really, because now he is bald. The me-of-twelve-years-ago is in mourning. This means she must write terrible terrible prose, describing nothing at all.

Also, what’s a Passing Out Parade? (See under: Relationship with Prince William.) Is that like when you lumber around the neighbourhood on Christmas afternoon? And then come home and fall asleep under the tree, clutching your stocking and a cinnamon roll? 

And now that I’m completely bunny-trailed, I would like to make a PSA: Christmas is on a Saturday this year. That means it’s a double-holiday. Woot!

(Also, “clutching your stocking” totally means something else. I don’t know what, but it totally does.)

>Applesauce, even if you’re not a canner; BONUS apple butter recipe

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So I promised last time to tell you about how easy and wonderful applesauce is, and here’s the fulfillment of that promise. Only one day late! Who’s counting, anyways, right? The really nice thing about applesauce is that it’s something that you can make and freeze and it’s still just as wonderful as if you canned it, making it perfect for those of you who don’t have the time/patience/know-how/jars to can. Some people, such as my mother, even prefer it frozen (she claims there’s a difference…) I’ll give you the instructions below, actually about a million different instructions because it’s so easy-peasy, you could make applesauce even if you only had a minimalist’s kitchen (knife, cast iron pan, cutting board). 


The basics: Cook apples until they’re soft. Mush them up.
That’s it, really. There’s several ways to cook them, and several ways to mush them up, and of course do you want to sweeten? Do you want to add other flavors? I guess I’ll just make some lists of each little part here, and you can mix-and-match to your pleasure. Please do let me know how your sauce turns out!
PREP: Wash the apples. If you like the flavor and nutrients of the skin, leave it on. Keep in mind that you’ll have to do more work to break it down later, unless you like large chunks of skin in your applesauce. If not, peel the apples. Unless you’ll be processing the sauce through a food mill, remove the cores. (Food mills are good for many things; I’ve gotten two good ones at thrift stores over the years.) Cut them at least in half, to facilitate even cooking throughout.
             COOK: There are two main ways to cook the apples: on the stove, or in the oven.  

     To cook them on the stove, put the prepped apples in a pot with a little liquid (water, apple juice, whatever) and bring to a boil. Turn to low, cover, and cook until the apples are soft. If you like chunky applesauce, stop now and mush the apples. If you like it more uniform in texture, cover again and cook a little longer, until the apples are falling apart. 
     To cook them in the oven, arrange the apples on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan or cooking pan, really any oven-proof dish big enough to hold the apples. Bake them at 350˚/180˚ until soft, as above. With oven baking, you could even just cut apples in half, core them, bake them, and scoop the flesh out of the skins. 

MUSH THEM UP: Of all the adaptable steps in this “recipe”, this one has the most options. Put the apples through a food mill. Or through a food processor, or a powerful blender. Or use a little elbow grease and mash them up with a hand-held utensil (potato masher, fork, rotary egg beater (the last method is untested by myself). Or put them in a big wooden tub, wash your feet, and stomp away! (This method also not tested by me.)

Source
FLAVOR: (Or FLAVOUR, if you’re a Canuck): Taste a little. Do you want it to be sweeter? (Remember, the sweetness level will “dull” a little as the sauce cools — this is why melted ice cream tastes sweeter — temperature does affect flavor!). Try: white sugar, brown sugar (try adding a little salt, too, for a more developed sweet note), honey, agave, or maple syrup.
Do you like the flavor? Add any of the following: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom (my personal fave), vanilla or other flavor extract, citrus zest, ground cloves, and/or berry jam. Other flavors to try, although you probably want to add them during the cooking stage (and pick out the remnants later): vanilla bean, cinnamon sticks, star anise, or fresh ginger. 
Now, properly contain your delicious creation! Don’t forget to label and date it. As you can see from the Grey Poupon jar in the first picture, I saved all my empty glass jars for several weeks before I made my applesauce and put all the fridge-bound sauce in those. You can always can it as well, using the following times: half-pints and pints @ 15 minutes, quarts @ 20 minutes.

BONUS! The easiest apple butter recipe!
Spread some applesauce on a rimmed baking sheet (AKA a jelly roll pan). Put any spices and/or sweeteners you like sprinkled over the top. I used brown sugar, a little salt, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Put in a 350˚/180˚ oven for about 30 minutes, stirring and spreading even every 10 minutes, until as thick as you like it. Store in the fridge, or water-bath can for 10 minutes. Yum! So good on English muffins.

>White Wine Pears

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So, I know it’s November, and probably the pears are done for you. I do feel guilty putting this up so late, but I just made it last week! Maybe it’s not too late!

I bought two boxes of apples and a box of pears recently. The pears ripened in about a day and a half, which I’m never prepared for (My thoughts upon purchase: They’re rock hard and green as a leprechaun! I have forever to come up with a kick-butt pear recipe! It had better be more awesome than the previous pears!*) And then like two seconds later someone told me they were ripe. I peeled them all! I sliced and diced! (Well, just sliced. And cored. But that doesn’t rhyme.) And I did what I do a lot: I looked at some recipes online, poked around in the pantry, and improvised from there. Here’s my version of

White Wine Pears

1 & 1/2 bottles white wine
equal amount of water
2 cups white sugar
about 17 & 1/2 pounds pears, peeled, sliced, and cored
1 t fennel seeds
1 t dried lavender
Prepare your jars in a boiling-water bath, along with the rings. Simmer the lids in a small pot of water.
Pour the wine and water into a large pot and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Put the spices in a tea ball or small cheesecloth pouch and add to the pot. Bring to a boil and then let simmer. 
Add the pear slices and simmer until the pears are soft but not falling apart, about 3 to 5 minutes. (If the pears are not all submerged in the liquid, put a lid on the pot.) Remove the spice bag.
Use a slotted spoon to distribute the pears equally among the jars. Pour the liquid over, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Use a chopstick or small spatula to remove air bubbles. If you would like a stronger taste of the herbs, add a pinch of either to the top of each jar.
Wipe the rims, put on the lids and rings, and put back in the hot water. Bring it back to a boil and boil for twenty-five minutes. Remove from the hot water, let cool, check the seals, remove rings and wipe down jars, and date and label!

Makes 7 quarts

Two notes: 
My winning costume — Unicorn Princess.

1. I used 1/4 bottle of Reisling, a bottle of German  sparkling wine (which I won at a Halloween party), and 1/4 bottle of mead. Any white wine works, or even red, I suppose. I liked the effervescence the sparkling wine gave it.

2. When I put my jars back in the hot-water bath, I stick the probe of my instant-read thermometer in the water and set the alarm for the boiling temp. Then I have a few minutes to walk away, check my email, read a great blog, do the crossword.  This thing is handy in so many ways, and more than worth the money.

Eat these straight, or over ice cream or pound cake. The flavors are not very strong, but nice and pear-y.

As for those apples, I’ve been making applesauce and apple butter. I normally just cook up the apples in a little liquid until they’re soft, then run them through the food mill and add whatever I want — spices, vanilla bean, sugar, apple cider, fruit puree. I even saved all the pear peels and cores from this recipe and simmered them up with some of the apples.

I’ll talk more in a day or two about the MAGIC of applesauce, how even if you’re not a canner you can still make it very easily, and a few ways to use it. Check back then!p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Times; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

*Now I know why cold-pack pears are not recommended. My jars look like a grit storm.